Aug 16, 2007

Privacy Matters

So both Ad Age and Newsweek seem to have simultaneously discovered Facebook.

And completely missed LinkedIn and what makes it a far superior networking device for anyone who doesn’t want to mix their business and social lives.

The key to LinkedIn—and I can’t emphasize enough what a big deal this is—is privacy. You see with LinkedIn, the only way I can see who your connections are is if they’re my connections as well. Or connections of my connections. (Even then, it won’t tell you who they are—just that one or more of Xs “connections” knows your buddies Y and Z.) Better yet, you can turn that feature off, so that even people you’re connected to can’t see who else is part of your posse.

That’s huge. Facebook feels like you’ve put your entire address book online for the world to see. Which is very cool when you’re a senior in college, but not so cool when you’re a senior vice president.

LinkedIn also doesn’t require photographs. So I never have to see pictures of people I work with at the beach with no shirt on. I don’t have to know what kind of music they like either, or whether or not they saw “Die Hard 3.” The only feature it seems to have is a “Question” section that seems to draw a surprising amount of traffic. (You only get to see/answer questions from people in your extended network. Most of those doing the asking in my extended network seem to be some sort of HR consultants.)

I’m not saying that Facebook is useless: it’s a great for socializing, particularly if you’re in a life stage where that takes priority. Many of the tools on there are a lot of fun and definitely have potential beyond Facebook.

But for a business-only social network, LinkedIn seems to have found the right formula.

PS: Shout out to Matt Dickman for getting me thinking about all this. The video on his blog about LinkedIn explains this far better than I can.


Anonymous said...


You got me laughing on this one. While I'm having a lot of fun on Facebook and though linked in could be a bit dry, I can't see how Facebook, in it's present form will really generate an environmet for business.

Regarding the "Question" feature, I apparently asked some sort of question about what was everyone's favorite romantic movie. I don't remember asking this but people kept on responding.

I think there's an opportunity for a blend of Facebook and Linked that could capture the best features of both.

Anonymous said...

Hi there Toad,

I strongly believe that because Linked-in allows minimal opportunities for interaction between members it is missing a trick.

I've been on linked-in for a long time but have rarely, if ever, got into many conversations (about work or otherwise) as a result of it.

I agree with Jonathan that Linked-In needs to learn from Facebook if it is to survive.


Alan Wolk said...

@Jonathan: You are not going nuts my friend. I had the same exact thing happen to me on Facebook this week. What's odd is it was a question I might have asked (e.g. it wasn't about scrapbooking or anything) and a friend actually answered it. I thought I might literally have forgotten posting it, which kind of scared me, so glad to know I'm not alone.

@Lee: First off, welcome aboard. Second off, remember that one man's drink is another man's poison (or whatever the saying is, I think I just totally screwed it up): what you miss on LinkedIn is what attracts a lot of other people: the fact that they don't have to talk to or interact with anyone on there, other than via email. I can name a good half dozen people I know who only signed up once I assured them they wouldn't have to talk to anyone on there.
Truth is, for most people on LinkedIn, most of the people they're connected to are people they talk to anyway, off-line.

Anonymous said...

Facebook was and is for high school/college kids. LinkIn is for business pros. Considering Julie is on both, I wonder how long before it too becomes ruined with ads for dating services and 40-year olds looking for 12 year-olds.

raafi said...

I still don't understand Linked=In. And I'm on the damn thing! I mean, if, as toad says, we're likely to be in contact with most of our contacts off-line, then what's the point? I haven't broken through to the point where I've used linked-in for anything other than accepting connections. Maybe some you guys can help me here.

Alan Wolk said...

@Raafi: LI is a great way to keep track of all the people you've worked with over the years as they move on to other jobs and other cities.

Think of it as a constantly updated Christmas card list.

It's useful to me in 3 ways:

A: I'm interviewing someone. I can check LI and see if we know people in common.

B: I'm called about a job opportunity. I can use LI to see if anyone I know is connected to anyone who works there.

C: It provides me with an easy way to get back in touch with people I've lost touch with, without any social awkwardness or feeling of "now what does Toad want from me after all these years."

Also, being able to keep my contact list private means that someone I met at a party or industry function can't look me up and start dinging my friends, claiming to know me.

Finally, it's all about one-on-one contact. There's no "Toad has added "Lola" by the Kinks to his favorite song list" for 400 people to see.
For the people I know on LI, all I care about is where they're working and maybe some major job-realted milestone in their lives- a promotion, relocation, etc. That's the level of the relationship I have with most of the people on there.

Hope that helps.